SANDF officials arrested as more corruption allegations surface

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Following the arrest of former Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is once again in the spotlight over fraud and corruption.

Retired Brigadier General Mendis Eddy Mondlane appeared in the Pretoria Commercial Crime Court last Thursday alongside co-accused, Mugisha Charles Mwali, after military police arrested them the day before.

News24 reported that they were taken into custody in connection with alleged irregularities relating to a R2 million tender for heat-resistant buffs and military goggles for soldiers undertaking peacekeeping missions in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Mondlane was charged with three counts of fraud, and Mwali, the director of Phomolo Enterprises, which was awarded the contract in February 2016, has one fraud charge against him over apparent misrepresentations made in support of awarding the tender.

News24 reported that according to the charge sheet, in November 2015, the Central Procurement Service Centre (CPSC) received a request from Joint Operations for the procurement of 3 000 heat-resistant buffs and 3 000 military goggles “to prevent sicknesses caused by dust”, required at various South African bases in Sudan at a time when the SANDF was contributing to African Union peacekeeping efforts there, which ended in 2016 after 12 years.

The State alleges that in December 2015, Mondlane – at the time serving with Joint Operations – signed a written request to have Phomolo Enterprises as the service provider. Approval to deviate from normal procurement processes was approved, leading to Phomolo receiving a R2.1 million contract in February 2016.

Modlane was granted R10 000 bail on 18 April and Mwali R5 000 bail. They have both denied the charges against them. The matter has been postponed to 17 July for further investigation.

On Monday, News24 reported that Retired Brigadier General Linda John Selepe was also arrested in connection with the tender case, and will also appear in court on 17 July. He landed in the dock alongside Sergeant Sibusiso Bewana, who are charged with fraud, stemming from alleged misrepresentations that ultimately resulted in the awarding of the Phomolo Enterprises tender.

Bewana has been accused of lying about standard bidding documents that were completed.

Selepe and Bewana were both granted bail of R5 000 each.

Meanwhile, further allegations have surfaced in relation to Mapisa-Nqakula’s corruption charges. The former minister is alleged to have received at least R2.3 million in bribes between 2017 and 2019 from defence contractor Nombasa Ndhlovu, who has now turned State witness. Ndhlovu alleges the bribes were paid to secure contracts for her company Umkhombe Marine. Most of the contracts were for logistics to support the continental deployment of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) troops, and amounted to over R200 million.

After turning herself in, Mapisa-Nqakula was earlier this month released on R50 000 bail by the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.

News24 reported that prosecutors are alleging Ndhlovu made R1.35 million in payments between October 2016 and August 2017 to a company called “Perfume De Lux,” owned by the wife of Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, who served as the head of Joint Operations.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has not charged Mgwebi and his wife Busisiwe with corruption. The State alleges ‘gratifications’ were paid between 2011 and 2016 to the head of Joint Operations to influence tenders being awarded.

The Specialised Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU) confirmed to News24 that Mgwebi was not part of the defence force’s bid evaluation committee (BEC) or bid adjudication committee (BAC) at the time that Ndhlovu’s company received two multimillion-rand tenders, but said evidence showed he “unlawfully manipulated and/or influenced the BEC and BAC, or any committee or members thereof, to improperly award the tenders in question [to Ndhlovu and Umkhombe Marine]”.

Mgwebi could testify against Mapisa-Nqakula over charges she solicited bribes from Ndhlovu, and possibly others.

After her arrest this month, Mapisa-Nqakula was released on R50 000 bail. Her case has been postponed to 4 June, with prosecutors saying they plan to add another defendant.